You’re invited to a birthday party!
In honor of the bicentennial of Charles Dickens’s birthday, an illustrious group of local actors will read from his best-loved works, following the style of Dickens’s own reading tours. The free performance, which will take place on Sunday, March 25, at 2:00 p.m. in the auditorium at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, is presented by the English Department and the Burchfield Penney.
Vincent O’Neill, Megan Callahan, Jimmy Janowski, Wendy Hall, and Katie White are just a few of the notable actors who will read dramatic passages from The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Bleak House, and Great Expectations.
“Dickens often toured England to give readings of scenes from his novels,” explained Ann Colley, SUNY Distinguished Professor of English. “Few people know that he traveled twice to North America to read before audiences who were eager to hear his dramatic renditions of his own work.”
Those audiences included two sold-out audiences in Buffalo, which Dickens visited in 1868. The demand for tickets was so high that scalpers were able to get 10 to 15 times their face value of two dollars.
The review in the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser of March 13, 1868, said, “Mr. Dickens has a wonderful power of expression and acts his characters admirably. When old Scrooge was introduced, the voice and look were nothing but Scrooge…” Dickens also read from the trial scene in The Pickwick Papers.
According to Dickens’s tour manager, George Dolby, in his book Charles Dickens as I Knew Him, Dickens was a bit disappointed in the beauty of Buffalo women, although this deficiency was “fully compensated for by the brightness of their perception.”
Chris Kelly, who has studied with Colley, will direct the show. “We are very grateful to Chris for bringing together such an outstanding ensemble,” said Colley. “We are also very grateful to the actors, who are donating their time.” Kelly, a member of Buffalo United Artists theater company, is an actor, director, and writer who has been working professionally in Buffalo theater for almost 20 years. He will also read one of the most dramatic scenes from the novel Oliver.
Anthony Chase will serve as narrator of the performance. Chase, assistant dean of the School of Arts and Humanities and well-known theater critic, will also read a selection from Bleak House.
“We are delighted to be among the many Dickens celebrations taking place around the world this year,” said Chase, “and to present his readings again to Buffalonians.”
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